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Beds go begging

Wednesday, 25th February, 2015

By Erica Visser

If 40 defunct aged care bed licences aren’t used within the next 12 months they will be revoked, but the biggest local provider says taking them on would be a risky endeavour. 

All residents have now moved out of Shorty O’Neil Village (SOV) following a City Council decision in December 2013 to close it. 

Councillors will vote tonight to “enter into negotiations with suitable local providers” for the transfer of the licences which, according to the Department of Social Security, could sit unallocated for a maximum of 12 months.

However, CEO of Southern Cross Care (SCC), Allan Carter, said yesterday that taking on the beds was not an option given a current lull in demand.

SCC had absorbed around three quarters of SOV’s residents during the closure period without building up a waiting list. 

This was in stark contrast to a 2011 aged care crisis which presented the prospect of up to 18 frail aged people being relocated from the hospital to aged care centres in Wentworth and Wilcannia. 

“At the moment if a 40-bed facility were to appear there’s not enough people to fill it,” Mr Carter said.

“The downturn is long and sustained this time. We’ve never before been in a position where you could’ve taken 40 beds out of supply and it not had a major impact.

“Why it’s occurring is a bit a mystery.”

Mr Carter said that he doubted any local provider would take the gamble on creating a new facility.

“Part of the problem is that if you took the licences you’re making an obligation that you’ll build, and to build a 40-bed facility would cost $10 million to $14 million.

“We would probably consider it if we could take them and park them but you can only leave them sitting there for 12 months.

“I don’t know who would bid for them locally. Given the current demand scenario I would be surprised if anyone who did their research would take them on.” 

But with a rapidly ageing population and the first of the baby boomers approaching their 70s, a report from Council management recommended the licences stay in the city.

“Broken Hill has an ageing population and it is important that demand is catered for by retaining the bed licences within the city,” said the report, by Division Manager of Corporate and Human Services, Razija Nu’Man.

Mayor Wincen Cuy seemed optimistic that the licences would be retained and hinted there had been some local interest.

“I certainly hope that the bed licences will be retained in Broken Hill. That was something we talked to the federal government about around July last year,” Mayor Cuy said.

“...Staff have spoken to providers in the city and I’m sure there is some interest out there.”

He admitted that the current environment was not encouraging for providers.

“There’s not the demand now and also the federal government’s position on aged care is changing from the last government, and what they’re trying to do is have more in-house care rather than (residential).

“There are a lot of different scenarios and we will watch what the federal sphere is doing.”

SCC had offered to build a new 60-bed nursing home during the 2011 aged care crisis, but Council dragged out a decision on SOV for too long and the momentum was lost.

Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said early last year that she was “confident” the 40 beds would remain in Broken Hill.

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